Survivors wary of Gacaca court reforms

KIGALI - Ibuka, an umbrella organisation of Genocide survivors’ associations, has expressed concern over a bill seeking to amend the jurisdiction of Gacaca tribunals. 
Theodore Simburudari, the president of IBUKA
Theodore Simburudari, the president of IBUKA

KIGALI - Ibuka, an umbrella organisation of Genocide survivors’ associations, has expressed concern over a bill seeking to amend the jurisdiction of Gacaca tribunals. 

The draft law, currently under consideration in parliament, will give Gacaca courts mandate to try some Genocide suspects in the first category, who have since been a reserve of the conventional courts.

“We have always expressed concern over this bill because it undervalues Genocide… people who are going to be tried in Gacaca courts are some of the planners of the Genocide,” Theodore Simburudari, the president of IBUKA, said yesterday.

He said that they have contested this bill right from the time it was being drafted.
“We still have hope because it is not yet a law…they (authorities) should look at the gravity of the Genocide crime,” he added.

According to the Executive Secretary of the National Service for Gacaca Jurisdictions Domitille Mukantaganzwa, the cases that will be transferred to Gacaca are those from leaders in the former communes (districts) downwards.

“That means that even bourgmeistres (equivalent of mayors) are going to fall in this category and these were high ranking officials,” Simburudari said.

Mukantaganzwa said yesterday that of the 8,731 cases that were classified by Gacaca courts as category one, at least 90 percent of them will be refereed to the traditional courts.
“This is in the spirit of reducing the backlog of cases within the classical courts,” she said yesterday. And in search for a consensus on the issue, a three-day meeting bringing together Gacaca officials and Genocide survivors was concluded yesterday at Alpha Palace Hotel.

 “We are looking into how survivors would be facilitated to attend trials of those suspects (from category one) that will be transferred to Gacaca courts,” Mukantaganzwa said yesterday.

The cases that will be transferred will be tried by selected juries from the existing Gacaca judges.  “We shall select the best of them to handle these cases because they (the cases) are not many…we expect the exercise to take not more than six months,” she said.

The present Gacaca law gives the traditional courts system mandate to try suspects in lower categories (two and three).

Meanwhile, Mukantaganzwa said that other 1200 cases that have been in classical courts will be placed under Gacaca jurisdictions.

Apart from people who committed Genocide crimes in their capacity as leaders, category one also include rapists.

The suggestion to have these trials transferred to Gacaca was discussed during last year’s National Dialogue Meeting.

The move is expected to give room the classical courts to be able to handle cases that are likely to be transferred from the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, (ICTR).
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